Secretary-General's joint press conference with Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol, in the presence of President Omar Bashir [unofficial transcript]
Khartoum, Sudan, 6 September 2007SG: Thank you very much, Mr. President and Mr. Foreign Minister.
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.
As you have just heard from the Foreign Minister, in the presence of President Bashir, we have had very useful talks here in Khartoum.
You will see that from our joint communiqué. We have taken a big step toward our shared goal of bringing peace to Darfur and long-term development of Sudan.
As you know, my team and I have been in Sudan since Monday. We have been given a very warm welcome and I appreciate the hospitality. I have met many people – Sudanese government leaders, representatives of civil society, humanitarian aid workers and, of course, members of the UN Mission in Sudan. It was a most informative and productive trip.
I undertook this mission in pursuit of peace, security and human rights. We are proceeding on several tracks.
As you know, we are on the verge of deploying one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces ever. This, of course, is the joint UN-AU hybrid force, UNAMID. This unprecedented effort opens a new chapter for Darfurians and all Sudanese people.
In parallel, we are pushing very hard to bring the various parties in the Darfur conflict to the negotiating table. We need a peace to keep. That means an immediate ceasefire and an end to violence.
As we move forward, we must make sure that we do not lose progress we have already made. I refer here to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south Sudan that is the corner stone of any lasting peace in Sudan.
That is why I travelled to Juba to meet First Vice President Salva Kiir. This agreement should be fully implemented. I would hope that the leaders of north and south Sudan, working with President Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir, will resolve outstanding issues as soon as possible.
From there, I travelled to El Fasher, the future headquarters of the UN-AU peacekeeping force, where I met with IDPs, civil society leaders, women's groups and tribal leaders. It is essential that their voices and concerns are channeled into the political process.
I also wanted to see, with my own eyes, the very difficult conditions in which our security and humanitarian aid workers are operating so courageously. At the Al Salaam camp, I saw 45,000 displaced persons living in the most appalling conditions. I was shocked and humbled. My heart went out to them. I wanted to give them a sign of hope that their lives might soon get better. I am resolved – completely resolved – that our work here will make this happen.
As I say, we have made significant progress over the past few days. I commend President Bashir for his cooperation, flexibility and commitment. I welcome his readiness to participate in the Darfur peace talks as well as his intention to implement the CPA and the resolution of pending issues. I would also like to thank AU Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare for his joint leadership and partnership in pursuing the cause of peace so ably and strenuously. The African Union Mission in Sudan, AMIS, has carried the burden of the international community. Its personnel have performed nobly under tremendous difficulties.
Many efforts have been made over the past year to prepare the ground for this new beginning. My Special Envoy, Mr. Jan Eliasson, and AU envoy, Dr Salim Salim, have been working intensely with the parties, most recently in the Arusha Consultations, and have concluded that the time is now ripe to launch the renewed peace talks.
After consultations with the parties, Chairperson of the AU, Mr. Konare and I have decided that the negotiations should begin in Libya on Saturday, 27 October, under the lead of the AU-UN Special Envoys, who will continue to work in close coordination with the countries of the region.
I urge and expect all parties to declare their serious commitment to:
- cease all hostilities immediately.
- achieve a political solution to the Darfur crisis;
- create a secure environment in Darfur conducive to negotiations;
- participate in and commit to the outcome of the negotiation effort;
There must be an end to violence and insecurity, a strengthened ceasefire supported by the incoming Hybrid Operation, as well as an improvement in the humanitarian situation and greater prospects for development and water in particular and recovery for the people of Darfur.
We are at a new beginning. Let us seize this moment, together.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I appreciate your own and Sudan's hospitality, Mr. Foreign Minister.
Ladies and gentlemen, your questions please.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. Foreign Minister, I have two questions. One of them is, while many African countries have pledged troops, actually, you probably have more than you need, officials at the United Nations argue that they need advance logistics and facilities, especially in transportation and air that African armies do not have. My first question to you, Sir, is would Sudan agree to the use of these facilities from the Europeans or even Americans, if needed?
And my second question, Sir, is we have been to camps with the Secretary-General and we have seen many IDPs complaining about violence in the camps, and I see here in your second item on your joint statement that Sudan is pledging to end the violence towards civilians. What is the Government going to do that it hasn't been doing in the past four years, because I remember when I came with Kofi Annan that we had also some complaints of that sort. What is the Sudanese government going to do to ensure that there is no violence in the camp for these people who come and seek refuge in these camps?
SG: On your first question, I have discussed with President Bashir on this administrative and logistic support. In addition, leasing with generous conditions land for the use of UNAMID forces, he assured the United Nations and African Union forces full cooperation and facilitation in administrative and logistic support.
On your second question, I would direct to the Foreign Minister.
Q: [translated from Arabic] Some news agencies reported that the programme for your visit also included meetings with leaders of some Sudanese opposition leaders. Was that so?
SG: I have been meeting people from all walks of life, and this afternoon I am going to meet political leaders this evening, after this press conference. Thank you.
Q: [on the status of Abyei] I have a demand and I have a question. My demand to the Secretary-General is about the Abyei area. Abyei is a pan-Sudanese issue. My demand is also expressed by a lot of people whom I know that, “We request and demand from the United Nations and the Security Council not to discuss it (Abyei) and not to involve itself in any way in the issue of Abyei.” Abyei is Sudanese and we are capable of solving it.
My question to the Secretary-General: we had here in Sudan the ex-Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan and we had here in Sudan the ex-Secretary of State (of the USA) Mr. Colin Powell. They stood the same way they stood here and spoke in favour of Sudan, its people and its political life. But when they went back to their offices in Washington D.C. and New York, they unfortunately said different things than what they said here. Are you, Your Excellency, going to act the same way they acted or are you going to be fair to yourself and the Sudanese community and say what you have seen and what you have heard?
Thank you very much.
Q: Your Excellency, Mr. Secretary-General, there are attempts by some circles to politicize the IDP camps in Darfur. These want to discourage the IDPs from returning to their homes and seek to keep the IDPs in camps to serve their own political purposes. The camps have also been used by some criminals who commit crimes and hide there. How do you, Your Excellency, regard this matter?
SG: I will answer the first two questions, and the third question by you. The smooth and full implementation of the CPA lies at the core of this peace agreement. The CPA is very important. The international community, because of the Darfur situation, has not paid much attention, and I am encouraged that momentum has been created, that the international community has been paying much more attention on this. I discussed this matter with both leaders – of south and north Sudan. The status of Abyei is one of the remaining pending issues. It is critically important. I would like to make it quite clear that the United Nations does not intend to interfere in any internal matters, including the status of Abyei. As Secretary-General, I will be ready to provide whatever assistance, political or technical assistance, to facilitate the implementation of all pending issues, including the status of Abyei.
Now, on your second question, I am a man of principal, and a man of action. Let us not talk about what has happened in the last three to four years by whatever and whoever has come here. The situation has changed. There must have been certain circumstances where these promises could not have been kept. Now, we must seize this opportunity that the international community is paying the utmost attention and cooperation, and there is talk between the parties concerned, as I have announced. Therefore we must not lose this opportunity. I'll try to do my best to be a part of the solution to this issue.
On your third question, about IDPs, again the United Nations does not have any intention to politicize. We are directing this issue purely on the grounds of a humanitarian point of view. The United Nations, all the aid agencies, and the humanitarian communities, NGOs, have been continuously helping those people to alleviate their difficulties and challenges. As I visited there yesterday, I was shocked and humbled by the poverty and hardship challenges they are undergoing. We must help them so that they will be able to return to their own homes and land. Thank you.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I wonder if you could tell us the reasoning behind your choice of Libya as the venue for peace talks, and I wonder if the Foreign Minister could then comment on whether Sudan believes this is a good choice, and perhaps if the Secretary-General could elaborate a little bit on the nature of the peace talks. It is a reenvisioning of a long negotiating process like Abuja?
SG: Since the Arusha meeting, I have been engaged in talks with the major parties concerned on mutually acceptable venues and appropriate timing, and most recently in the last two days while travelling, I and Ambassador Eliasson have been actively engaging and discussing this matter with all the regional players including the representatives of movements so that we could agree on a mutually acceptable place and timing. As you may remember well, the Libyan government has been playing a very constructive role. During the last two times they have been host to the Tripoli I and Tripoli II consultations to facilitate this peace process which has been constructive. There were of course some other countries which also offered. I have discussed this matter very closely with the Chairman of the African Union Commission, and Chairman Konare and I have decided and are of the same view that Tripoli could provide a good venue, and could work as a good place to facilitate these peace negotiations. And at this time, I would again urge that all the parties concerned, the Sudanese government and major players in the region, particularly the representatives of all movements should participate. It is absolutely necessary. This is going to be very important, a crucially important forum for a durable and permanent peace in Sudan.
FM Akol: May I suggest that we take a number of questions instead of one person coming at a time which is time-consuming. If we take a number of questions and these are answered at a go.
Q: The Secretary-General said in his statement, as is also mentioned in the Joint Communiqué circulated to us, that assistance will continue. The question to the UN Secretary-General is, to what extent is the Secretary-General confident this time that the assistance will come in as pledged? This is because assistance that actually came in did not exceed 50% of the pledges made earlier.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you mentioned a lot of plans for social and economic development for Sudan. Could you tell us: do you only seek measures or projects for Sudan or have you ever thought of projects that were successful to keep (indiscernible)?
Q: [interpretation from Arabic] How do you evaluate the humanitarian situation in Darfur following your visit to Darfur?
What strategies are there to meet the needs of the IDPs receiving assistance from the aid agencies? Thank you.
Q: Your Excellency, Secretary-General, regarding the fears of Vice-President Salva Kiir and (SPLM) Secretary-General Pagan Amum have expressed fears yesterday of an outbreak of a new crisis in Darfur (indiscernible reference to humanitarian assistance). What steps can the United Nations take to encourage the international community so as to fulfil their commitments to this part of our country?
Q: Good afternoon. Mr. Foreign Minister, when I look at this Joint Communiqué, there is only one issue that is new – the date for the talks. But the rest is the same things that I have heard in Arusha and so on: the commitments by the government, commitments by the parties concerned. What differences are we now going to see happen to bring real impact because now we know that the hybrid force is going to be deployed. What is new? What is another change that is going to be felt?
Q: Will AbdulWahid, the rebel leader, be present at the talks?
SG: I have received most of the questions, except one addressed to the Foreign Minister. This means the hospitality of the Sudanese government. Thank you very much for this hospitality.
For the questions on the humanitarian situation in Darfur, the international community, the United Nations, have been actively engaging and providing the necessary humanitarian assistance to displaced persons and refugees. It was very sad for me to see all those people suffering from lack of shelter, housing, sanitation and lack of water. We may find those same people all around the world, but to me it was very shocking and humbling. At the same time, we have been concerned and frustrated, by many cases of threatening humanitarian workers, hindering, embarrassing, sometimes kidnapping and threatening those people. They have been doing here very noble work for the people of Sudan, therefore the responsibility of insuring security, the conditions under which they can safely provide the necessary assistance lies on the Sudanese government and local authorities. Of course, when UNAMID is well in place, UNAMID can be a help. But I would urge again, as I did to President Bashir, he assured me, as did local authorities yesterday, that they would ensure in accordance with the humanitarian joint communiqué which we signed between the UN and the Sudanese government, to ensure security for them, the international community will continue to increase such assistance.
On the question raised by KBS, it is again true that while the international community has been focussing our time and energy on the Darfur situation, we have not paid enough attention on the necessity and urgency of development and helping in the social and economic field. They have suffered too much, too long. It is appropriate now for the international community to think about how we can give some signs of hope to Darfurians and the Sudanese people in general. I have already begun discussing this matter with the major powers, European partners, international financial institutions. I have not any concrete proposals or projects at this time. I have raised the scarcity of water as one of the reasons and causes exacerbating the situation in the Darfur conflict, therefore I am now going to work very closely to develop ideas on this development project.
Now, what I would like to ask the Sudanese Government, is that we must work very closely together to well manage the situation where we have agreed to work together. It is crucially important that we nurture this very fragile political process, as well as the hybrid process, then the international community's attention and support will be favourably coming.
On the last question of whether Mr. Abdul Wahid will participate, I know that he has great influence in the peace process. I would strongly urge him to participate in the forthcoming peace negotiations. I have discussed with many players, influential leaders, to exercise their influence and convince him to participate. It is also very important that rather than protesting or complaining outside the framework of dialogue, it is better if everybody comes and addresses their concerns. That is the principal of democracy; that is the core principal of political negotiation this time.